I’ll never forget the day I told my boss I was pregnant. I’d dreamt of being a mum my whole life but found myself suddenly terrified at the thought of being out of the business for a year.
During the six months that followed I couldn’t begin to imagine life without my work emails, let alone letting my colleagues take care of all things new business while I was gone. But a pregnancy doesn’t last forever despite it feeling that way at the time, so there came a point when I simply had no choice but to let go when my beautiful baby boy was born.
It goes without saying that from that day Oscar became my number one priority, but it was still important for me to allow myself time to focus on my career, ambitions and professional success. I work in an industry that I love, one that is fast paced, all about people, constantly changing and at times very demanding. It has definitely taken me time to feel less guilty about dropping everything to run out the door at the end of the day or when Oscar is poorly, especially when we’re in the middle of a new business pitch with deadlines to meet. Knowing my colleagues are still working when I am sitting watching a swimming lesson or putting him to bed still isn’t easy, but although I’m not always present I know my team trusts me to be organised, deliver against my responsibilities and get the job done. I’ve had to learn to just put my phone down and shut off my work brain to focus on being a mum, and whilst I don’t always do this when I should, he is never afraid to remind me with a quick telling off!
At the age of five, I’m already proud of his understanding as to why mummy works so hard. He loves to visit the office and when I arrive at his after-school club will often ask how my day has been and if I’ve had some good meetings! Of course there are times when he doesn’t want me to leave him at breakfast club, or with friends or family because I need to work a long day or be away overnight, but I manage that mum-guilt as best I can, whilst reminding him why it is important that mummy sometimes has to work longer.
Balancing work and family is a skill in itself and one never to be under-estimated. Over the last five years I’ve been on a steep learning curve, spinning more plates than I ever thought possible! It’s not always easy and I often come close to smashing one, but no one is perfect, and I’ve learnt how to be more self-aware and kinder to myself; acknowledging and focussing on my successes as opposed to those things I don’t get right first time.
Seeing dentsu recognised as a top employer by Working Families comes as no surprise and is very well deserved. Since my first day back after maternity leave, I’ve always felt fully supported by my bosses and colleagues, when I found myself catapulted into life as a working mum with no choice but to quickly learn how to survive. Our flexible working policy means that I’ve never missed a special event or occasion and there really is nothing better than being there to watch his nativity play or cheer him on at sports day. Then there is the Employee Assistance Program which gives us, and our families, 24/7 access to a helpline to speak to trained professionals about anything from work, to finances, health or otherwise. I’ve used this service a number of times and can’t rate it enough.
I genuinely feel like I’ve found a balance and approach that works for me and for us both, but it has taken time and effort to get to this point. I’m happy to be in a place where I feel I can be a good mum and focussed on my career and professional success at the same time, whilst also importantly being a good role model for my #1 fan.
Laura Jennings is Business Development Director at dentsu Leeds.